Friday, November 30, 2007

Eleanor Burns would be truly disappointed.

It takes a special kind of genius to figure out the quickest and most effective way to make something. Eleanor Burns is exactly that kind of genius.

I am not.

Eleanor has a show called Quilt in a Day. I -- when all goes according to plan -- will have a show called Think It Out, wherein I will walk viewers through the process of not using the internet, not using pattern books, and using the longest way around there is to make some everyday item. And everyone will love that show. Or they will say they love that show because everyone will know that if you watch Think It Out, you are obviously someone who likes to use your brain until it throbs right out of your skull. And everyone knows that's cool.

Let me give you a little sample of what I'm talking about.

I decided I wanted to make some (four) placemats as a gift for a friend's 40th birthday. In my shoes, Eleanor Burns would simply pull out her trusty placemat pattern and get to sewing. An hour later, she'd be finished and having a cocktail.

Not me!

I looked through my fabrics and decided I'd like a motif in the middle of my mat -- a motif that I'd have to somehow extract from other designs in the (rather expensive Japanese) fabric. Fine. I know from watching my shows that that's called "fussy cutting", and those ladies do it all the time.

I eyeballed the space around the motif and cut it out, trying to leave as much of the surrounding fabric intact as possible.

Then, I pulled out a placemat that I own, traced around it for size onto a piece of tissue paper, and cut that out. I then proceeded to sketch a log cabin pattern on it by placing the cutout motif in the center, then just eyeballing the rest of it. I wanted the design to look somewhat irregular but not jacked up, so I figured this was the best way to achieve this. Then I measured.

Two things you should know here: (1) I did remember I needed to add 0.5 inches to each dimension for the seam allowances. Bullet dodged. Good one, me. I even made a spreadsheet with the correct measurements to make sure I wouldn't blow it later. (2) I have a very strange talent apparently, in that when I eyeball something, it happens to be exact measurements. I didn't really know that before, so that was weird to discover.

[Program note: I'm realizing Think It Out may not be able to cover one project per show. This might present a challenge in selling it to the networks. But whatevs.]

Let's skip ahead:

On different tissue paper, I made a pattern for each strip. For directional fabric, I marked the pattern with orienting lines. (Oh, I tried figuring it out without those lines first. Yeah. Because I'm thinking here! Right.)

Eleanor isn't scared by directional fabric. I am. But that didn't stop me from using it, and using it in the most difficult way possible.

There were SO many steps in here, it was ridiculous. I'll spare you and just tell you that here's what I've got so far:

The outer white edge is batting, not part of the top. (The photos are bad today because of weather that includes much-needed rain here in SoCal.)

OK. Now. I think on my show there's going to be a section where I ask the audience for advice. But only after I'm very much committed and possibly in over my head.

So that's this part here, and it involves the finishing of these mats. Ready? OK.

I was planning on machine-quilting these, you know, so they're like little quilts.

(1) Is cotton batting ok for the middle layer, or should I use interfacing or something else instead?
(2) Can I stitch in the ditch, or will that look bad/dumb/annoying? Can I use off-white thread?
(3) Should I make a binding to go around the edge, or should I just take another fabric for the back, sew right sides together, and turn it inside out -- no binding?

And finally,
(4) Have I made a terrible mistake?

I thank you for your input and kind consideration in this matter.


heather t said...

Ok, I've made one lap quilt and zero placemats. So here are some really useless answers:

1) No clue.
2) a) Sure, why not? b) Sure, why not? (I didn't know there was this "colorless thread" rule in quilting; I used thread in the main color of my fabric.)
3) Either one. I would decide based on a) fuss; b) time; c) Do I have enough fabric to make a binding?
4) No. I think it looks great so far. I love the little design and the way the colors are coming together. If you decide they aren't good enough to give your friend, you can send them to me.

And I would totally watch your show.

Marie said...

I made some placemats last year for Christmas. Here is what I know:

Use cotton batting. It gives them a nice feel - way better than the ones I made with the synthetic batting.

I used to think that I had to use white thread when I quilt. I got over that. Now I use whatever color I want. I used red one time and black another. Quilt any way you want to. It is you vision - run with it.

I spent way to much time putting binding on the first set. I got done with that and said "Damn". I turned the rest of them inside out . I sewed in the batting and turned it with one of the sides. Then I topstitched the opening closed and continued the topstitching all the way around so it did not look like I sewed them closed.

You did not mess up by starting. My 1st set of placemats took forever or maybe longer. I learned some things from my mistakes so the rest of them went quickly and were a blast to sew.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!


Stella said...

1. Probably, yes.

2. a. It always looks messy when I try to stitch in the ditch, but that's because I'm sloppy and I don't have a walking foot. I don't see any reason you shouldn't though, since you're clearly more proficient than I.
b. Sure.

3. I hate binding. I think the inside-out plus topstitching plan is solid.

4.NO! I love it, for reals.

Erica said...

Hey, I'm impressed you made a pattern! I would have just started ripping. (Yes, that's right, ripping. I rarely cut fabric, I rip.)

So I say do whatever you think works best. Though I do remember reading in a book (so it must be true?) that stitching-in-the-ditch weakens the quilt.

maryse said...

well i can't give you any advice since i've never quilted in my life nor have i ever made placemats. however, i love the design you came up with. i think they're adorable and the colors make me very happy.

Rooie said...

I'm on Marsye's bench...I don't quilt...I don't sew. But man, those are going to be gorgeous placemats and, were they mine, the first time someone spilled wine on them I'd have to kill them.

Rooie said...

Oh great, I spelled Maryse's name wrong...I'm sorry, Maryse.

tiennieknits said...

I love cotton batting - love the way it shrinks to give your quilt a great antiquey look. I think you should quilt it the way you want. The placemats will be lovely!

Carol said...

OK, so you went the long way around, it's the journey not the destination. It's the wandering that forms you, Hey the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness and you only spent, what, a couple of days? You're way ahead of the pack.